A parable: feeding the One Bob
January 19, 2016 § 20 Comments
Suppose there is only one Bob. Suppose the Neeches and the Screeches engage in different practices that they call “feeding the One Bob”.
The Neeches have a better understanding of Bob’s nature than the Screeches (though of course really knowing Bob is not a matter of fully grasping his essential properties from a philosophical point of view, if that is even possible). Both groups do things that they understand to be ‘feeding the One Bob’, but because of their different understanding of Bob’s nature they have very different understandings of feeding. The Neeches feed the One Bob by making him a sufficiently nutritive meal, according to instruction from Bob himself. The Screeches ‘feed’ the One Bob by throwing excrement at his house and beheading people.
There are plenty of other people around too, who are neither Neeches nor Screeches, who have varying understandings of Bob’s nature. Some have more in common with the Neeches, others have more in common with the Screeches, and sometimes it is a complex mix of commonality and difference. These people don’t come into the story, except that who wants to have cocktail parties with whom may be a motivating factor for the insanity which is about to follow, and some of them join in on the insanity. In addition still other people are wandering around carrying signs that say “there is no Bob!” or “there are many Bobs!”
Some Neech ecumaniacs stand up in the public square and proclaim “both Neeches and Screeches feed the One Bob!” and start carrying around buckets of excrement as a show of solidarity with the Screeches. These ecuneeches seem to think the fact that the One Bob is the focus of the various actions each group calls “feeding” has some significance.
This so outrages other Neeches that they lose their minds, and start insisting that because the Screeches’ concept of Bob is radically incompatible with the Neeches’ concept of Bob, the Screeches aren’t even referring to Bob when they use the word “Bob”. These contraneeches develop a theory of the essential properties of Bob, insist that nobody can even talk about Bob without first accepting their theories and their understanding of Bob’s essential properties, and go on an Internet rampage. They insist that the Screeches are not even referring to Bob when they use the word “Bob”, because they don’t understand Bob’s essential properties.
Bob, who at the end of the day is perfectly capable of feeding himself, encloses the ecuneeches, contraneeches, and Screeches in an insane asylum where they scribble things on the walls and mistake their scribbles for the real world outside the padded walls.